Favorite

Beebe: Go to China 

Arkansas Republicans made their last stand against Mike Beebe in the form of three television ads broadcast during the final two weeks of the gubernatorial campaign.

The first one features children saying they want to “pander to special interests” and be a “backslapper” — “just like Mike Beebe.”

The second one ties Beebe to the Nick Wilson public corruption scandal, saying Beebe “let it happen” and “let [Wilson] stay in office” after Wilson’s conviction.

The third ad features Gov. Mike Huckabee cautioning, “You and I remember what it was like when powerful insiders made all the decisions and the rest of us paid for them. Today we stand at a crossroads. Do we go back to a government of insiders …?”

There is a good reason why the Republicans saved these attacks for last. They are among the only indisputable criticisms of Beebe.

After all, Beebe is not very ideological. He is a careful politician with a mostly inoffensive record, and he built a broad base of support through his efficient leadership of the state Senate for many years.

But the flip side of that coin is that Beebe’s strength was helping people get what they wanted, whether it was a fellow senator or a lobbyist. He was highly skilled in navigating the clubby atmosphere of the legislature, and he didn’t rock the boat.

So it’s not really unjustified to think of Beebe as a “backslapper” or someone who “panders to special interests.” (Although having young children make those accusations wasn’t such a great idea.) And while Beebe was not complicit in Wilson’s crimes, he certainly failed in his oversight responsibilities as Senate leader, and then he put collegiality before duty in not acting to immediately remove Wilson after the verdicts.

As for Huckabee’s charge that a Beebe reign means a “government of insiders,” that is a legitimate fear. Many of Beebe’s best friends are powerful executives and lobbyists with the state’s biggest industries. He is also very close with legislative leaders at a time when the state Senate will be run by a member of “the Brotherhood” — a faction united only by a desire to preserve a slush fund for pork projects — and the state House will be run by a speaker wholly owned by some of the aforementioned lobbyists.

Still, even if the critiques of Beebe are fair, it’s too late. There are plenty of other good reasons to elect him instead of Asa Hutchinson, and he is probably going to win.

Therefore now is the time to remind Beebe that being governor is something entirely different than being a legislative facilitator. Not only does it demand bold executive leadership, but it inevitably summons the judgment of history. The short-term trade is less important than the long-term achievement.

With that in mind, Beebe has the unique opportunity to put two decades’ worth of accumulated political capital and credibility into doing what no one else can do: convincing legislators to reform their own cozy but corrupt system.

It would be like Richard Nixon going to China. In 1972, Nixon surprised the world by traveling to the communist nation in a first step toward normalizing U.S.-Chinese relations. Political observers said that only Nixon — a longtime fervent anti-communist — could have made the trip without being accused of being soft on communism.

Similarly, only Beebe has the credentials, relationships and dealmaking ability to enact limits on lobbying and gifts to legislators. His friends would listen to him and trust him on that issue in a way they would for no one else.

Plus it would be beneficial for Beebe in several ways. Of course it would neutralize the primary political complaint against him. But it would also potentially shield his administration from its most obvious Achilles heel, because if special interests penetrate government too deeply, Beebe could lose control of his agenda and be vulnerable to another Nick Wilson-like scandal under his watch.

And then there is the judgment of history, which could only be positive if he acted forthrightly to clean up the political process.

It may be too much to expect from Beebe, or any Arkansas office-holder, considering the entrenched interests that would have to be overcome. But rarely does the man fit the moment so perfectly. No other governor in anyone’s living memory has spent as much time in the state legislature and understands it as well as Beebe.

His legacy may rise or fall on whether he recognizes his singular position and seizes it to make a lasting, progressive change.

Favorite

Comments (11)

Showing 1-11 of 11

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-11 of 11

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

More by Warwick Sabin

  • Helena's disappearing buildings

    Preservationists hope to slow demolitions.
    • Mar 22, 2007
  • Trailers headed to Dumas

    Gov. Mike Beebe issued the following statement earlier today: Although this decision by FEMA to deny emergency funds to Desha County defies common sense, Arkansas will take care of its own people.
    • Mar 9, 2007
  • Youth Ranch robbed, vandalized

    According to a press release we just received: The Donald W. Reynolds Campus of the Arkansas Sheriff’s Youth Ranches (The Ranch) located near Fort Smith was vandalized overnight Thursday.  Items stolen during the break-in included all of the children’s saddles, food, tools and supplies from The Ranch’s carpentry shop and all equipment from its auto shop.  An investigation is underway with the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office.
    • Mar 9, 2007
  • More »

Most Shared

  • World leaders set to meet in Little Rock on resource access and sustainable development

    Next week a series of meetings on the use of technology to tackle global problems will be held in Little Rock by Club de Madrid — a coalition of more than 100 former democratic former presidents and prime ministers from around the world — and the P80 Group, a coalition of large public pension and sovereign wealth funds founded by Prince Charles to combat climate change. The conference will discuss deploying existing technologies to increase access to food, water, energy, clean environment, and medical care.
  • Tomb to table: a Christmas feast offered by the residents of Mount Holly and other folk

    Plus, recipes from the Times staff.
  • Fake news

    So fed up was young Edgar Welch of Salisbury, N.C., that Hillary Clinton was getting away with running a child-sex ring that he grabbed a couple of guns last Sunday, drove 360 miles to the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, D.C., where Clinton was supposed to be holding the kids as sex slaves, and fired his AR-15 into the floor to clear the joint of pizza cravers and conduct his own investigation of the pedophilia syndicate of the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state.
  • Reality TV prez

    There is almost nothing real about "reality TV." All but the dullest viewers understand that the dramatic twists and turns on shows like "The Bachelor" or "Celebrity Apprentice" are scripted in advance. More or less like professional wrestling, Donald Trump's previous claim to fame.
  • Arkansas archeologist does his job, is asked to leave

    Amid Department of Arkansas Heritage project.

Latest in Warwick Sabin

  • Trickle-up theory

    Through thick and thin, there has always been one group of dedicated Americans whose support for President George W. Bush has been unwavering: The wealthy.
    • Mar 8, 2007
  • Time to go

    Tough questions face us in Iraq and it's time to confront them directly.
    • Mar 1, 2007
  • Plugged in

    One reason why the South remained solidly Democratic during the mid-20th century was the enduring gratitude to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who brought electricity to the poor, rural parts of the region. According to one historical account, “Althou
    • Feb 22, 2007
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans

Event Calendar

« »

December

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Most Viewed

  • Reality TV prez

    There is almost nothing real about "reality TV." All but the dullest viewers understand that the dramatic twists and turns on shows like "The Bachelor" or "Celebrity Apprentice" are scripted in advance. More or less like professional wrestling, Donald Trump's previous claim to fame.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Reality TV prez

    • Dear Dead: I know what you are thinking and why because I am clairvoyant. As…

    • on December 10, 2016
  • Re: Reality TV prez

    • Don't hold your breath, Deadsea. Rational thought and logic can't exist in a fact-free environment.

    • on December 10, 2016
  • Re: Reality TV prez

    • Investigator, you must share with us how you know what i am thinking and why…

    • on December 10, 2016
 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation